By Orlando Crowcroft
Shenhua settled a score Friday night in an epic clash at the Hongkou Stadium.
They came from a goal down to beat champions Shandong Luneng 4 – 1, getting their revenge on the team that beat them to the title last season.
The game had the feeling of a cup final, with Shenhua proving that while Shandong could beat them on points – as they did last October – they wouldn’t beat them on their home turf.
It had looked like Shenhua were going to get thumped from the word go. Shandong had all the chances in the opening ten minutes, hitting the bar twice before Roda Antar found the net in the 15th minute.
But going a goal down seems to inspire Shenhua this season, and they soon started attacking and, incredibly, passing the ball to each other instead of hoofing it towards players on the other team.
The crowd went mental when Vyacheslav Hleb opened the scoring in the 40th minute, and doubly so four minutes later when Chen Tao added another. Suddenly Shenhua were going into half time in the lead.
In the second half there was no doubt who was the stronger team. Shenhua had a number of chances before Hernan Barcos’ magnificent goal in the 62nd minute, the Argentine beat his man before gracefully flicking the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.
If that wasn’t enough, Shanghai native Mao Jianqing went and added the fourth on 81 minutes, picking up a cross before beating three defenders and smashing it into the net. The crowd were, well, pretty hysteric by this point.
Shandong had a few chances in the dying minutes but it was academic. When the whistle went they left the pitch looking as disheartened and beaten as their contingent of away fans.
Shenhua’s players, on the other hand, acted like they had won the title, and to be fair to them it felt a lot like that from the stands too. Their current form, particularly away from home, will not win them any silverware this season but gives the fans some great football, which is exactly what they deserve..